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Three— Structure and Its Critique
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The Residual Structure

The structure of authority against which the revolution had been successfully launched before 1949 was progressively redefined following the flight of the Nationalist regime to Taiwan. The opposition structure was first conceived to include political opponents who posed a credible threat to the new regime, then it was seen more abstractly in terms of a bourgeois-landlord social class, and finally in terms of residual elements of that class (variously defined). The fact that this progressive redefinition of the opposition coincided with successful efforts to incorporate opponents within the community implied that conflict gradually lost its in-group/out-group clarity and became internecine. It also entailed an increasingly intensive search for opponents.

The regime's first priority was to eliminate its "diehard" opponents. A campaign for the Suppression of Counterrevolutionaries (zhengfan ) was launched in 1950 and, in close connection with agrarian reform, lasted through most of 1951; it resulted in the execution of seven hundred thousand to eight hundred thousand counterrevolutionaries, "not counting those who were imprisoned or put under control," which "should aggregate several millions." The Three-Anti and Five-Anti movements (December 1951–December 1952) also placed the urban bourgeoisie under some constraint, though they were not yet deprived of their property and not usually executed (about five hundred were executed, thirty-four thousand imprisoned, and two thousand committed suicide). A second campaign against counterrevolutionaries, the Sufan (suqing ancang fangeming ), was set in motion in mid-1955 as a sequel to the campaign to criticize Hu Feng.[1] The chief difference between the Zhengfan and the Sufan campaigns is that the former was conducted in rural areas, small towns, and city slums against those who had served in KMT militia, police, or other "public servants" (qian gongjiao renyuan ), whereas the


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latter was mainly directed against non-Communist intellectuals. In the course of Sufan, eighty-one thousand intellectuals were "unmasked and punished," and more than three hundred thousand lost their civil rights because of "political unreliability."[2]

The selection of targets for exemplary criticism in the campaigns involved a more or less elaborate preliminary investigative procedure to ensure that only well-qualified culprits were selected. Political pressures were imposed to intensify the search, particularly during the early phase of the campaigns: beginning in the early 1950s the Party began to set fixed quotas for investigation. By September 1955, 2.2 million people were reported to have been investigated, and one hundred ten thousand "counterrevolutionaries" exposed. In Mao's view about fifty thousand major suspects were still at large, however, and 11 to 12 million people were yet to be investigated when the movement ended.[3] Target selection in response to administrative quotas resulted in a certain ritualization of the process in some cases, as the same targets were trotted out repeatedly at the commencement of the various campaigns and forced to submit self-criticisms.[4]

The "principal social contradiction" during this period was defined as the "contradiction between the working class and the broad masses of the people on the one side and the remnant forces of the big bourgeoisie and the landlord class on the other side."[5] Application of the terminology of class to Chinese social structure entailed rather complex distinctions and subsumptions, which have been competently analyzed elsewhere.[6] Its application accompanied the successive campaigns to socialize the means of production launched in the early 1950s, resulting in the sorting of the Chinese populace (particularly the rural population—in the cities the Party was somewhat less thorough) into more than sixty class designations. This classification, based on a combination of "class status" (based on occupation during the three years prior to 1949) and "family back-


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ground" (based on the class status of one's parents and grandparents), was usually entered into each person's confidential personnel file (dang'an ) and kept in the local unit office. As the assumptions underlying this classification became problematic upon "basic completion" of socialization of the means of production at the end of 1956, the files began to take on a life of their own.

The waging of class struggle was systematically linked with political struggle against targets selected to symbolize opposition to specific regime policies. Sometimes a national model would be chosen, and various localities would in turn discover their own exemplars, leading to the exposure of a "Gao Gang of Sichuan," a "Hu Feng of Guangdong," and so forth. This search-and-destroy operation was so effective at inhibiting visible deviation that it operated at a diminishing rate of return, as compliance made it increasingly difficult to locate valid targets. Reclassification of penitent class enemies after a stipulated probationary period (e.g., three years for a rich peasant, five for a landlord) seems to have resulted in a perceptible attrition over time of the target group, colloquially referred to as the "four-category elements" (landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, and bad elements).[7]

In the wake of the Great Leap debacle, the regime began to use various mnemonic devices to evoke an opposition no longer physically present. One example is the "recall bitterness meal" (yi ku fan ), in which a basic unit (production brigade, school class, infantry platoon) would prepare a meal of the humble fare on which they had been forced to subsist before Liberation in order to remind themselves of how much their situation had improved. Richard Madsen describes such tableaux with considerable empathy:

These recitations of past bitterness would be clothed with solemn gestures to make them profoundly moving events. The sessions would be held at night, with almost all lights in the meeting hall extinguished to evoke the darkness of the past. Peasants who had suffered the most terrible personal degradations would ascend the stage to tell about their past. They would usually weep as they told their stories and sometimes they could not even finish their accounts.


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From the darkness people in the audience would punctuate the speaker's accounts of bitterness with shouted slogans: "Down with the old society! Down with the Kuomintang reactionaries! Down with the landlord class! Long live Chairman Mao!" In the small discussion groups, people would pour out their grief over the bitterness of the past, and express their deep-felt sorrow for their ingratitude to Chairman Mao. . . . At the end of the training sessions a special meal to remember the bitterness of the past would be held. The meal would consist of the bitter wild herbs which poor peasants often ate in the old days when they could not afford better food. Some of the old people actually wept as they ate the ate the bitter food.[8]

As in the case of the salvationary mission, in its continuing assault upon the structure of feudal-capitalist authority the revolutionary leadership seems to have fallen victim to its own success. The prerevolutionary class structure dwindled upon being deprived of its economic base, and the most courageously forthright dissidents to the Party's policy initiatives (such as Liang Shuming or Hu Feng) were eliminated within the first decade. These developments implied that whereas the leadership had previously been preoccupied with the very real power of this structure of counterrevolution, henceforth they would have to devote increasing attention to shoring up the credibility of its existence. Meanwhile, the structure of socialist authority was becoming consolidated, and while it began with a generous endowment of popular legitimacy, this fund was soon depleted not only by the policy errors already alluded to but by its own inherent structural flaws.


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Three— Structure and Its Critique
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